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Supreme Taking Command

Gas Powered Games CEO Chris Taylor hints at the studio's next project.

Gas Powered Games was founded in May 1998 by Chris Taylor, and went on to win critical acclaim and commercial success with 2002 RPG Dungeon Siege.

An expansion pack followed and also proved a hit, but GPG has now taken a new direction with Supreme Commander - a THQ-published real-time strategy title which goes on sale tomorrow.

In a speech at the DICE Summit last week, Taylor discussed how the development process has changed, as has the industry along with it - telling the audience, "This is the secret that's getting out: we're growing up."

Afterwards sat down with Taylor to find out more about GPG's future plans, and why their next title is something of a laughing matter... How important is new IP to Gas Powered Games?

Chris Taylor: New IP is king. It's really what our customers want more than anything. They love familiarity, but what they'd probably love is the familiar with a really strong twist. And that's so challenging. We often do what we call very incremental game design - it works well with big business and big bets.

But new IP somehow creates the fertile ground for coming up with radical new gameplay ideas. Doesn't always mean that that's what happens, but when you show someone something new, there's this gleam-like twinkle in their eye, like, 'Wow, that means I might experience something I've never experienced before.' And that promise is pretty exciting.

What's your opinion of the current platforms?

The PC - I think later this year we're going to see incredible systems that just take off. The multi-cores, the 64bit OS... Imagine a gaming rig with eight gigs of RAM and a one or two gig video card. It's just super exciting.

The Xbox 360, the current market leader - I love the online, the whole package, the way it comes together. The Wii is capturing the hearts and minds of people, at an incredible pace.

I have not personally had the time with the PS3 to make my assessment. I could only absorb and repeat other people's opinions.

You've previously worked as a stand-up comedian. Would you ever do a comedy game? Do you think that's worthwhile?

Actually, well, we've got something we think is going to be very funny, very entertaining... When you get this next game, a couple years from now, and you're like, âOkay, finally, I get to check out what this guy's talking about,' you're going to sit back, you're going to relax, you're going to enjoy yourself. And you're going to go, âOh, I know what he means now.' That's the next thing I want to try to do.

Have you picked any platforms?

Yeah, I just can't announce it. I'll tell you it's a console game, but I can't tell you anything else right now.

What's your perspective on digital distribution?

I think digital distribution is invariably the future. But what everyone forgets, and this is extremely important, is that when I buy a game online and I get it digitally distributed to me, I still want the box, I still want all the goodies...

Did Valve do that with Half-Life 2, did they send the box when you ordered the most premium package?

I don't know, âcause I actually bought it at retail. And then I was very disappointed with how austere the contents were... I think to myself, âGosh I want to wrap an experience around me.' If I'm a Huskies fan, from Seattle, I got the hat, I got the jacket, I got the bumper sticker on my car. I wrap the whole lifestyle around myself.

I think one of the mistakes we make in the games business is that we forget to give our customers the tools to wrap themselves around our experiences.

Blizzard does it though, with the World of Warcraft [packaging]... And they're the leaders, as far as I'm concerned. The World of Warcraft Collectors Edition packaging is so spectacular, is so fantastic, it almost makes me mad, because I can't have that experience with everyone else. How is that for irony? âThis is so good, I'm mad.'

Chris Taylor is CEO of Gas Powered Games. Interview by N. Evan Van Zelfden.

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